The Vatican (Sunday, September 2, 2018, Gaudium Press) Here is the address Pope Francis gave September 2, 2018, before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
This Sunday we take up again the reading of Mark’s Gospel. In today’s passage (Cf. Mark 7:1-8.14-15.21-23), Jesus addresses an important subject for all of us believers: the authenticity of our obedience to the Word of God, against every worldly contamination or legalistic formalism. The account begins with the objection of the Scribes and Pharisees, addressed to Jesus, accusing His disciples of not following the ritual precepts according to the traditions. Thus the interlocutors intended to strike at the credibility and authoritativeness of Jesus as Teacher because they said: “But this Teacher allows the disciples not to fulfill the prescriptions of the tradition.” However, Jesus replies strongly, saying: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'”(vv. 6-7). So says Jesus, in clear and strong words! Hypocrite is, so to speak, one of the strongest adjectives that Jesus uses in the Gospel and He says it addressing the teachers of religion: Doctors of the Law, Scribes . . .”Hypocrite,” says Jesus.
Jesus, in fact, wants to shake the Scribes and the Pharisees from the error in which they have fallen, and, what is this error? It is that of distorting the Will of God, neglecting His Commandments to observe human traditions. Jesus’ reaction is severe because much is at stake: it’s about the truth of the relationship between man and God, the authenticity of religious life. A hypocrite is a liar; he isn’t genuine.
Also today, the Lord invites us to flee from this danger of giving more importance to form than to substance. He calls us to recognize ever anew what is the true center of the experience of faith, namely, love of God and love of neighbor, purifying it from the hypocrisy of legalism and ritualism.
The message of today’s Gospel is also reinforced by the voice of the Apostle James, who tells us in synthesis what true religion must be, and he says thus: true religion is “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
“To visit orphans and widows,” means to practice charity towards one’s neighbor beginning with the neediest, most fragile and most marginalized people. They are the people that God takes care of in a special way and asks us to do likewise.
“To keep oneself unstained from the world” doesn’t mean to isolate and close oneself to reality. No. Here also, the attitude must not be exterior but interior, of substance: it means to watch that our way of thinking and of acting isn’t polluted by a worldly mentality, that is, by vanity, avarice, and pride. In reality, a man or a woman who lives in vanity, in avarice, in pride and at the same time believes and makes him/herself seen as religious and even arrives at condemning others, is a hypocrite.
Let us make an examination of conscience to see how we receive the Word of God. We hear it on Sunday at Mass. If we listen to it in a distracted or superficial way, it won’t be of much use to us. Instead, we must receive the Word with an open mind and heart, as a good terrain, so that it’s assimilated and bears fruit in concrete life. Jesus says that the Word of God is like a seed; it’s a seed that must grow in concrete works. So the Word itself purifies the heart and actions, and our relationship with God and with others is freed from hypocrisy.
May the example and intercession of the Virgin Mary help us to honor the Lord always with our heart, witnessing our love for Him in concrete choices for the good of brothers.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican